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MHH Previews the Lesser 29: Vancouver

Welcome to a new installment where we will preview each of the other NHL teams who simply make up the bulk of the league the Avalanche play in. Today, we preview the Vancouver Canucks.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Their head coach: Willie Desjardins. I know very little about him, but he is one short gentleman. Wikipedia (WHICH IS NEVER WRONG) lists him at 5’8. Seems like sixty-five inches too tall. I swear he needs a step stool to see over the Canucks’ bench during games.

Their captain: Henrik Sedin. Oh no, this guy. I really do not like the Sedin twins. Lot of that is just because they’ve given the Avs lots of torture over the years, but they can still suck it. Henrik Sedin isn’t even the most famous Henrik in sports now that Henrik Stenson won The Open Championship by playing some of the greatest golf ever. You know how many championships Sedin has in the NHL? Zero. Just like the Canucks. Oh! (Reaches for high-five)

Their 15-16 season: It was an abomination. Ever since the Canucks got tired of being one of the best teams in the West but being incapable of winning the Stanley Cup and electing to blow everything up, they’ve been searching, even with the playoff appearance in 2015 when Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames quite literally torched them.

How did they do against the Avs? Pretty well, which most of us have just come to accept. The Canucks will always play like champs when they play Colorado. Ryan Miller played out of his mind in the Avs’ first visit to British Columbia last season. It was a taste of our own medicine in which the Avs’ usual strategy of being massively outshot and praying for goaltending went the other way. I swear the Canucks got 4 shots off that whole game, and they scored on each of them.

When do they play the Avs this season? In Denver on November 26th, at Vancouver on January 2nd, and in Denver on January 25th.

Will they be good? I imagine they will be the opposite of good. I could be wrong, but I don’t see them being any better or worse than they were last season. They didn’t do much in free agency and didn’t get a draft pick worth their terribleness because the lottery benefited the Jets instead. 6th in the Pacific and 2nd to worst in the West seems like a pretty good guess at this point.

3 Questions with their SB Nation blog, Nucks Misconduct:

-The Sedin twins aren’t getting any younger, and while they still produce, particularly Daniel, what are the Canucks’ plans to replace them in the future? Or has that even been a discussion yet? One does not simply replace twins. It’s hard enough to tank to try and get Austin Matthews. (And we all know how that turned out.) The twins drive the offence at this point and will continue to do so for at least two more years or until a second line can show it can produce consistently. The idea that Daniel is the key is misleading. Daniel may have had 28 goals last year, but he absolutely disappears when Henrik is not playing.

The discussion about future replacements has been going on since 2011, but really came to the forefront when Benning took over as GM. The one bright spot from pre-Benning days is Bo Horvat. Bo has the potential to be a 30 goal guy in the next two years if he can find some line mates who work has hard as he does. Some of us are hoping if Brandon Sutter can stay healthy and gets top minutes, he can get 20 goals. Jake Virtanen made the team last year and probably needs a couple more years to develop into a power forward. (Jury is out on that one) Our best prospect is Brock Boeser who helped lead North Dakota to a Frozen Four title. 

The Sedins could play until they’re 40, but realistically this might be their last year as first line players. The Canucks will have to shift the style of the team away from the "Sedin cycle" and become more of a straight ahead speed team and try to find balanced line scoring instead of having a go to line.

The Canucks might be in for a few lean years unless Benning can attract big free agents or pull off a trade for scoring.

-The last few years in southwest B.C have been very up and down. What do you see this year being? Back in an upward direction, or staying on the down end? Well, to be honest that one depends on who you ask. While there are some areas where the team has made some improvements (Picking up Loui Ericsson, and the addition of Erik Gudbrandsen on the back end), are they enough to see a marked improvement, let alone have them make a return to the post-season. It seems as though management feels that despite finishing with the 3rd worst record in the NHL last season, they're now in a position to cry out "We're going for it!", much to the dismay of just about anyone who takes the time to look at the team without blue & green coloured glasses.

The problems are numerous to be sure, and while their D is somewhat better than the clown show they ran last season, and Ericsson might help them by scoring a bucket full of goals, they still have young guys trying to learn their way, some veterans that are getting long in the tooth, and at least 2 guys who just feel like anchors pulling the team back to the bottom of the ocean that is the Pacific Division. If you can explain why Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett get as much ice time as they do, we'd all love to hear it, as it seems to fly in the face of logic. One thing's for sure: If ownership and management feel this is a playoff team, you have to think Willie Desjardins is on a very short rope this year.

-Oddly, after being one of the most publicized and talked-about teams for several years, talk about the Canucks nationally has dropped significantly. Give me a reason or two why that might change this year, and why they might make their way back up the ranks of the West: I think you can trace it all back to 2011. That entire season was an extremely gut-wrenching one for the team, and because history is not kind to the losers, a lot of the obstacles they had to overcome there has been lost in the narrative of losing to Boston. How the team reacted the year after, in not trying to find some free agent additions or make trades to try and improve the team, really came back to bite them on the ass in that loss to the Kings in the playoffs. From that point on, they really seem to have been missing an identity. The 2011 Canucks had a swagger to them, and rightfully so, as they were from start to finish the best team in the league that season. When they lost to the Bruins, it really feels like they listened more to what some of the media had to say about why the team lost, and tried to fix these perceived shortcomings instead of actually making a better hockey team. To make matters worse, they had a pretty decent season 2 years ago, only to lose in 6 to a Flames team that had no business winning that series. This has led to a mindset in the team's leadership that the problem was a bad playoff performance, and not a deceptive record during the regular season. So now instead of going full on rebuild, they have Trevor Linden and Jim Benning trying to assure fans that things will be better this time around. While I appreciate that the future could look bright thanks to some decent drafting, the present day Canucks are still at best a Wild Card team, and even that would be a bit of a surprise.

Thanks to Kent Basky and westy99 for taking the time to answer!